NEW YORK CITY — Influencer marketing is a growing industry that isn’t going anywhere. Companies’ spending on influencer marketing is up, according to January 2021 research by Influencer Marketing Hub, with 62% of marketers globally stating they intend to increase their influencer marketing budgets this year. Market analysts predict that the industry will be worth north of $15 billion by 2022, nearly double what it was in 2019. And per Insider Intelligence’s latest forecast, 67.9% of US companies with 100 or more employees will use influencer marketing in 2021, and that number is expected to rise to 72.5% in 2022.

Laura Konopack, senior VP of influencer marketing at Ketchum PR & Marketing Communications Consulting, said that brands see the value of partnering with influencers to reach audiences directly with a real human message. “People follow influencers because they like their content or their personality, and they can engage with them in a real way. Marketers understand the importance of that,” she said. “There’s a level of trust that consumers have with the influencers they follow, which gives the brand credibility.”


There are several ways brands can approach influencer marketing, starting with the reach of the influencers themselves. Macro-influencers have a following of 100,000 to 1 million and have usually gained “fame” through the internet itself. Brands looking to build awareness or reach a broad audience might want to engage with these high-profile individuals to build credibility. But the price tag for such partnerships is often on the steeper side.

Micro-influencers (1,000 to 100,000) tend to have a niche (which could be as broad as baking or as narrow as vegan baking for kids), and their audience is usually more like-minded and singularly focused than those of macro-influencers. These mid-level influencers don’t boast celebrity status, but they have strong relationships with their followers and can be a beneficial partner, especially when a brand is trying to gather feedback or launch a new product.

Then there is the newly coined segment called nano-influencers, who have a smaller number of followers (fewer than 1,000) but tend to have a strong impact in their local neighborhood or community. It’s a reminder that bigger isn’t always better; according to Planoly, nano-influencers earn a 7% average engagement rate, which is higher than any other group.

“There’s a level of trust that consumers have with the influencers they follow, which gives the brand credibility.” —Laura Konopack | senior VP of influencer marketing | Ketchum PR & Marketing Communications Consulting


One company that’s found success by working with nano- and micro-influencers is Tate’s Bake Shop. Kelsey Formost, director of content strategy at Tagger Media, noted that these smaller influencers’ partnerships have driven engagement rates of up to 5%, more than double the overall industry average.

“Each influencer tier serves a different role and different purpose,” Konopack said. “It’s important for each — the brand and the influencer — to know what is going to resonate. Goals need to be clear at the outset for both parties at the start of a campaign, and that can vary significantly from brand to brand and influencer to influencer.”

Kate Ramos has been partnering with brands on influencer campaigns for the past 8 years. Ramos’ blog, ¡Hola! Jalapeño, specializes in Mexican cooking, and with just over 30,000 Instagram followers, she falls squarely in the micro-influencer camp. She’s worked with companies from Kellogg’s Special K to La Tortilla Factory to Alfaro’s Artesano Breads on gifted partnerships (in which the companies send product samples in exchange for posts, some with monetary rewards for high-performing posts) and paid partnerships.

For her, it’s most important that she speak to followers in a genuine way about the brands she’s working with. “I’d never partner with a brand I wouldn’t use myself,” she said.

When she first got into influencer-brand relationships, the ask often involved a recipe and a blog post. Now, the most common is an Instagram post, story or reel, but recipes still play a key role.

“I think offering recipe ideas for how to use a product is still really important, and I try to do so through my own lens because that feels much more personal, and my followers are more receptive to those types of posts,” Ramos said. “And I always want to put out the highest quality content that I can, whether it’s in partnership with a brand or not.”

Buckle shared the sentiment, noting that content creation is the golden ticket to successful influencer marketing.


Influencers are incredibly powerful and really shifting the conversation about what smart, strategic marketing looks like,” Buckle said. “But at the end of the day, content is king. It’s the thing that works. Social media is saturated with pretty pictures and a lot of empty posts. If the content he or she is creating isn’t telling a compelling story or offering a meaningful takeaway, the results simply won’t follow. As an influencer, to be successful in this space, you must be on your A-game and ensure high-quality, high-caliber content.”

Konopak said that during the pandemic, lifestyle influencers — especially those in the food and baking space — have only gotten more popular. “There continues to be a renewed interest in at-home baking and cooking, and brands would be smart to take advantage of that. Influencers can help give products broader context by sharing innovative ideas and making brands stand out in a more holistic way.”

According to Hummingbird Creative Group, the week of the launch, social engagement increased 9 times, news stories about the rebrand generated 500 million impressions and social posts generated more than 36,000 (mostly positive) comments.

“At the end of the day, it’s about knowing your audience and what’s going to resonate,” Konopack said. “It’s about pairing brands with influencers who have a strong audience overlap to ensure both are hitting their target consumer. And it’s also important to remember that this is a very personal, human relationship, and one that requires a nuanced approach to ensure overall success.”